OK, so the first two items were guys who don’t even play on defense – and in the end, players have to make plays.
Despite the loss of all-around ultra-mega-super-stud Brandon Graham, the defensive line should be a force to be reckoned with this year. This is now a veteran group that should be downright nasty. By smashing the run and forcing teams to be one dimensional - and then mercilessly rushing the passer - this unit is one of the main factors in protecting our young DB's and safeties.
My personal favorite player on the D is big Mike Martin. In 2008, he made The Sporting News’ 2nd team All-Freshman team. Last year, despite playing with a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery, he more than doubled his tackles (51). Although MM is primarily known as a beast of a run-stopper, he has the strength, health, and explosiveness to completely destroy the pocket for opposing QB’s this year. Oh, by the way, I think he is very seriously pissed off this year as well. An angry, healthy Mike Martin? LOOK OUT!
Next up is DE Ryan Van Bergen. As a 4* recruit coming out of Whitehall, MI, RVB was listed at 250 lbs in high school. Now, as a redshirt junior, he has packed on another 33 pounds of muscle in the Barwis program. Van Bergen is a returning 12 game starter who had 40 tackles and five sacks. This is another guy that teams will be forced to double team this year.
Michigan also has 2 seniors that are primed to deliver the best results of their career: Greg Banks and Renaldo Sagesse. Although they have shown flashes of potential, it is time for them to really step up as seniors. With Big Mike and RVB on the line, these seniors will attract less attention and should be able to win a ton of one on on battles.
True sophomore Will Campbell has really reshaped his body. When he got to Michigan, he was a really big kid. Particularly in the midsection.
After just one year on campus, he now looks like a much more athletic big man. That said, it sounds like Big Will is still fighting his way up the depth chart to try and earn playing time. Expect his big body to contribute as an important backup this year - particularly against running teams or short yardage.
One true frosh that has earned a lot of attention is Defensive End Jibreel Black. RichRod recently said that he expects JB to contribute this year. Black has taken over the now legendary #55 (vacated by Brandon Graham). It sounds like Jibreel is flashing early potential to do justice to the legendary double nickel.
Expect the D-Line to be the biggest strength of the defense. They have a nice mix of experience and young talent. If this unit somehow under-performs, the Michigan D will be in complete shambles again this year. However, that seems extremely unlikely. The D Line will rock!